Copyright is the fuel that allows creators to keep working

Written by Marc Joulaud on 22 January 2018 in Opinion

Content creators face a grim reality within the digital single market, and it’s up to politicians to rectify the situation with fair copyright rules for all, says Marc Joulaud.

Marc Joulaud | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

A year and a half ago, in a nearby building, the European Commission presented its copyright reform as part of its digital single market strategy. Ever since, these files have been discussed within the Parliament, discussions in which I take an active role. 2018 will be decisive - the result of the negotiations on the copyright reform will shape the cultural landscape and practices for decades to come.

No pressure.

Contrary to the popular caricature, copyright is not an evil obstacle, meant to forbid citizens from enjoying content. Copyright is the fuel that allows creators to keep working and provide citizens with new content. Without copyright, creators are not remunerated according to their success and lose control on what is done of their works.


In the end, both consumers and society as a whole would lose because there would be less creation. So copyright is an absolute necessity and a European priority, especially since creation is one of the few economical and cultural jewels that Europe retains over the rest of the world.

Now the digital revolution provides an all-new set of wonderful opportunities and blatant abuses. Welcome to the Digital Wild West.

Europe realised that big tech companies are not the 'cool kids' they used to be and should behave responsibly. In other words, “you can’t have your cake and eat it”. Platforms cannot actively use cultural or press content as bait to get advertising revenues and squeeze citizens out of their data while at the same time refusing to negotiate fairly with creators.

This is the cold and harsh reality of the Digital Wild West and its core business model: The creation of others is nothing more than bait and citizens are nothing more than commodities that can be manipulated to protect commercial interests in the name of “access”.

We are not dealing with smart kids who want to make cool tools, we are dealing with companies who want money and have gotten used to not answering to anyone. There is no fairness in this, and our role as politicians is to correct this.

This is not a witch-hunt against big businesses. It’s about a simple principle: two business actors sitting down as equals and negotiating fairly how one can use the creation of the other.

Likewise, platforms should have a responsibility to set up proper technical tools to act against unauthorised content. Artists always faced the issue of unauthorised uses, but the necessity to intervene here stems from the sheer scale of digital dissemination. 

When 400 hours of content is uploaded every minute on a single service, it is simply impossible to manually verify the presence of unauthorised content. You need technical measures within the service to check if content A matches the copyrighted content B that an artist requested to be monitored. This is not censorship nor 1984, this is mere pragmatism.

Our own responsibility as politicians is to prevent collateral damages, meaning that services that do not massively spread cultural content should not be impacted and that citizens’ legitimate practices should be safeguarded.

This is what is at stakes in our negotiations: restoring fairness and justice to the grim darkness of the Digital Wild West, while balancing the legitimate interests of both citizens and rights-holders. 

Then again, no pressure.


About the author

Marc Joulaud (EPP, FR) is Parliament’s culture and education committee opinion rapporteur on copyright in the digital single market

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